The “sporting humility” Sainz and Norris share with three champions · RaceFans

by Sep 17, 20200 comments

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McLaren racing director Andrea Stella has worked with Formula 1 world champions like Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Today he is charged with helping Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris perform at their best every time they sit at the wheel of their MCL35s. It’s been a successful season so far for the team, which lies third in the constructors’ championship.

Speaking to RaceFans in an exclusive interview, Stella described how their drivers’ relentless pursuit of improvement reminds him of the champions he’s worked with in the past.

“I have been lucky enough to find myself next to drivers of the calibre of Michael, Fernando, and Kimi [who] was champion in the first year at Ferrari. They are not born so often, let’s say.

“But there’s some elements of Carlos and Lando [there] and I want to hope that we are somehow contributing to that, in creating the right mindset.”

“Both of them are constantly in the process of [asking]: ‘How can I be better tomorrow than today?’” said Stella. “I’m sure if you ask every driver, they will all say ‘But I’m doing the same’.

“But there’s a way of doing things and I think they are doing it in the right way, which includes as well some values.”

Stella characterises this trait as “a sporting humility”

Stella with Sainz in Mexico last year

“It’s a very important characteristic,” he says. “It’s acknowledging that you enable the solutions, and the solution comes through collaboration.”

Despite this similarity, Sainz and Norris have different approaches both to working with the team and driving the car.

“Carlos, if anything, likes to have his internal dialogue, he likes to reflect on things,” explains Stella. “Reflective, introspective, very logical, very rational.

“Sometimes I tell Carlos he’s going to be prime minister at some stage, and it’s going to be to the benefit of Spain. He’s a really clever guy, grounded. Even the way he drives: He likes to have a clear plan, even the plan to approach the corner.”

His team mate is more direct, says Stella. “Lando instead is more like he thinks and he speaks. Very direct, which makes him also… I’m sure from a social point of view he’s quite successful, and it comes through. Straightforward, let’s say.

“He’s a very nice guy, very talented. He’s learning how to use his talent, and he’s doing well in this respect. We are very pleased with how every day he’s better than the previous day.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Norris started his second season on the podium

“In a way this is true when I was working with Fernando or with Michael. One thing I can say: Up to the last day of their career they thought ‘How can I be better than yesterday?’ In a very humble way, it’s the kind of humility you need to succeed.

“So yes, his collaboration with the engineers, with the rest of the team is good. And in the collaboration of our drivers I think McLaren have an opportunity, compared to what can be happening at other teams.”

It isn’t just Stella who sees that opportunity. Last weekend by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown described how some of their rivals have “destabilised” driver line-ups at the moment.

“We have two drivers that are doing an excellent job and some other teams which have disruption in their garage,” said Brown. As the season moves into its second half, the strength of their driver pairing will be vital to McLaren as they bid to beat Racing Point, Ferrari and Renault to that third place.

Read more from Stella in the new edition of the RacingLines column, coming up later today on RaceFans

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